There is not a lot of certainty in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, but two things are increasingly clear: one, that Donald Trump is unfit to serve in the Oval Office and cannot be re-elected president in November; and two, that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., needs to drop out of the Democratic primary.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is the Democrats' best chance to beat Trump at the ballot box — even if it’s remote or virtual — this November, and there is virtually no way for Sanders to win enough delegates to best him in the remaining primaries. Thus, the longer that Sanders yet again remains in the race, the more it yet again hurts the Democrats’ chance at winning the White House.
Plus, continuing to attack a Democratic candidate looks ridiculously tone deaf as his fellow Americans battle the virus that Trump allowed to spread unchecked.
At a time when voters are scared for their health and fear going to the polls for the primary contests, it would be smart of Sanders to read the moment and recognize that it’s just not his. Sanders even knows that his path forward is a “narrow one” — but instead of dropping out is determined to use his diminishing candidacy to push forward his platform, as though he could not do so as a sitting senator with plenty of media opportunities. However, it would behoove Sanders and the party he supposedly seeks to serve to recognize this unique moment we’re in is bigger than his ego and bow out.
By proactively dropping out of the presidential race, Sanders would have a real opportunity to unite the party and to coalesce its support around Biden, rather than being a thorn in the side of the nominee, as he was in 2016. He can and should help to shape the future of the party, not help shape Republican attacks against it again.
It’s been clear for some time that Sanders has very steadfast supporters, and their loyalty (at least publicly) often tends to be to the man rather than his ideas, regardless of his slogan. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that, if Biden were to become the nominee, 15 percent of Sanders supporters would vote for Trump. (In spring 2016, a similar ABC News poll showed that 20 percent of Sanders supporters said they would support Trump if Clinton became the nominee, and 12 percent of his primary voters ended up doing so.) By dropping out of the race now and enthusiastically stumping for Biden, Sanders would have an opportunity to help change that.
More importantly, the same ABC-Washington Post poll showed that, right now, 80 percent of Sanders supporters would back Biden in the general election if he were to be the nominee. And, at this point, Biden has a more than 300 delegate lead over Sanders, while a Washington Post-ABC News poll last week of Democratic leaning voters shows him with a 16 percent lead ahead of Sanders (55 percent to 39 percent).
Meanwhile, two Democratic powerhouse organizations — American Bridge and Unite the Country — are joining forces to support Biden. Unite the Country already has ads running to highlight Trump’s initial lackadaisical response to the coronavirus outbreak. Both groups plan to provide the resources Biden will need in a general election, because it’s evident that, in order for the Democrats to beat Trump, they'll need to combine all their resources, rather than continue to spend them on a primary fight.
In other words, Democratic groups are consolidating in order to keep the eye on the prize — which is, and should be, defeating Trump, full stop.
While the consolidation behind him is good news for the Biden campaign, there still exists an uphill battle in the coming general election. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this weekend, Trump has shifted from a seven-point deficit in February to an almost tie with Biden today among registered voters, where Biden now leads Trump only 49 percent to 47 percent. (When it comes to a general preference among all adults, 50 percent of people prefer Biden, while 44 percent prefer Trump).
But, as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the country, Trump's approval ratings are actually rising overall, according to Gallup, despite his mishandling of the situation. And while a slim majority of Americans approve of Trump’s coronavirus response (according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll out last week), 58 percent of Americans do believe he wasn’t quick enough to act.
That divide could be one on which Biden can capitalize, since he holds a 10-point lead over Trump, according to the aforementioned poll from last weekend's, when it comes to voters’ trust in handling health care.
The primary is effectively over, and the general election is on, whether Sanders likes it or not. All factions of the Democratic Party will be better off by coming together early — and before the date of the convention, especially if there isn't one. The coronavirus pandemic is proving just how badly we need a new president come November, and exactly why elections matter (and why both parties are not the same).
For the sake of our country, Sanders should drop out of the Democratic primary and devote himself to defeating Trump, not just promoting his ideas: it’s both the noble and the right thing to do in this moment, not just for him but for us.